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Ella Sabljak wants to use her experience as a school teacher to help achieve positive outcomes for her elite athlete colleagues during her tenure as one of the 11 members of Paralympics Australia’s Athlete Commission.

The Australian women’s wheelchair basketball team player was informed of her successful candidacy by Commission Vice-Chair Danni Di Toro while both were still in quarantine after representing Australia at Tokyo 2020.

Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson followed up with a call to Sabljak in which the pair discussed, among other things, the long-term opportunities athlete representation can bring in the years leading up to the Brisbane Paralympic Games in 2032.

“My background is primary school teaching, specialising in positive mental health and wellbeing,” Sabljak said.

“These skills are transferable from teaching into sport and I’m hoping to be able to pass on my knowledge to all athletes.

“No one should be left behind and being a part of the Athlete Commission at Paralympics Australia will allow us to empower everyone so that we all can achieve our goals on and off the court.”

Sabljak has shown a strong passion for athlete advocacy. She was one of four athletes named last year to the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) Athlete Steering Committee, which is playing a crucial role in establishing an athlete representative body at international level. She said she had used aspects of the Paralympics Australia Athlete Commission model as part of a foundation for the IWBF version and she suggested her presence on PA’s Athlete Commission could help create a link between the game globally and domestically.

“Among the opportunities I see being on the PA Athlete Commission is to have a continuation of vision and goals with the work I’m doing at the IWBF,” Sabljak said.

“That can then filter down into Basketball Australia and Paralympics Australia and make it really seamless. I think that will make things better for the next generation coming through.”

PA established its Athlete Commission in 2017 to enable greater engagement with Para-athletes across sports and to help inform PA on decisions relating to athlete-facing matters. The Chair is currently two-time Paralympian Annabelle Williams and it includes representatives from eight sports.

Di Toro said she looked forward to working with Sabljak on a range of issues.

“We’re all excited to welcome Ella to the Athlete Commission,” Di Toro said.

“She brings such great energy and experience to the Commission. We look forward to working with her to continue the great work being done to improve the lives of Para-athletes both on and off the field.”

Anderson said she believed Sabljak would be a valuable inclusion on the representative body.

“Ella has a growing record of passionate advocacy for Para-athletes and Para-sports,” Anderson said.

“Her work at the international level, through the IWBF, places her in a strong position to offer our Athlete Commission some great insights which, ultimately, will be to the benefit of all of us within the Australian Paralympic movement.”

By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 24 September 2021